That’s Entertainment!

That’s Entertainment!

Actors from Saskatchewan, both in the movies and on the stage. We also list some of the many obscure movies made here. Loss of government tax incentives has hampered the home-grown film industry in our province.

Well-known actors on the Big Screen

You’ll recognize many of these, as they performed in film, nationally or internationally. Most got their start on the stage here in Saskatchewan, many through university drama programs.

Kim Coates studied drama at the U of S, appeared in Saskatoon plays, at Stratford Shakespeare Festival, on Broadway, and several Hollywood films. His TV credits include Miami Vice, Prison Break, Smallville and Sons of Anarchy. He received at least three American acting awards, and a Canadian Dora Mavor Moore award.

Shirley Douglas of Weyburn appeared in movies such as Lolita and Shadow Dancing, the TV shows Street Legal, Wind at My Back, and DeGrasse: The Next Generation, and plays such as the Glass Menagerie at the National Theatre. She is Tommy Douglas’s daughter.

Tom Jackson (OC) from One Arrow Reserve appeared in several films, and such TV series as Star Trek: The Next Generation, North of 60. He received a Governor General’s award, two Queen’s Jubilee and two centennial medals. He was also chancellor at Trent University 2009-2013.

Kari Machett of Spalding acted in plays at Stratford, in the films Apartment Hunting, Angel Eyes and Maudie, and in the TV series The Rez, Earth: Final Conflict, Heartland, Power Play and Saving Hope.  

Tatiana Maslany, born in Regina,appeared in the TV series Heartland, Being Erica and Orphan Black. Her awards include ACTRA, Canadian Screen and Golden Globe. She also appeared in films, such as Defenders of the Dead, Violet and Daisy, and The Vow.

Leslie Nielsen (Order of Canada) of Regina acted in serious films such as Forbidden Planet and The Poseidon Adventure, and zany ones like Airplane, and the Naked Gun. On TV, he was in Littlest Hobo, Bonanza and Police Squad. His laurels include an ACTRA, and Emmy and Oscar nominations. Nielsen’s name graces Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and Canada’s too.

Eric Peterson (Member of the Order of Canada) born in Indian Head, is another celebrated actor and comedian trained at the U of S who starred in the TV series Street Legal, Corner Gas, This is Wonderland, and a new film Claws of the Red Dragon, playing the Canadian ambassador to China. His awards include five Gemini, a Dora, and an ACTRA.

CFQC_TV studio scene
Peter Scott, later known as Scott Peters, in the CFQC-TV studio in Saskatoon. Photo QC-1244-1 by CFQC staff ca. 1960, from Local History room, Saskatoon Public Library .

Peter Scott aka Scott Peters aka Peter Sikorski, was a well-known TV celebrity in Saskatoon before he moved to Hollywood and became Scott Peters. His flicks included They Saved Hitler’s Brain.

Gordon Tootoosis (CM) appeared in such TV shows as North of 60, Big Bear and a British hit comedy series, andin at least three Hollywood movies including Alien Thunder. Tootoosis was chief of Poundmaker Reserve, and was outspoken on native issues. In 1999, he helped found the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company, later renamed in his honour.

Hollywood actor John Vernon, born in Zehner as Adolphus Raymondus Vernon Agopsowicz, studied in Regina, Banff and London, England. He is best known here for the TV series Wojeck. He performed at Stratford, Toronto and New York, and in such movies as Dirty Harry, Topaz and Animal House, and TV shows Gunsmoke, and Mission Impossible.

Murray Westgate’s voice was well-known in commercials during Hockey Night in Canada. He began with radio dramas in Regina, and appeared in films like Blue City Slammer, Two Solitudes, and the TV series RCMP, Seaway and Seeing Things. He won an ACTRA award for the TV movie Tyler, and a Genie.

Janet Wright, “gravelly-voiced” star of Corner Gas, carried on valiantly after losing both parents and her sister in a fire, and a daughter in a vicious shooting incident. She starred in many Saskatoon plays before moving to Toronto, and won a host of acting and comedy laurels, including Genies, Geminis, and Canadian Comedy awards. Her list of films goes on for pages.

[Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia, Canadian Encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, IDBm,]

Movie dramas

With a Saskatchewan connection or filmed here

Some American movies purporting to take place in Saskatchewan have mountains in them (tsk, tsk, Hollywood). Because of the vagaries of film distribution in Canada, some were only seen on television, except those made by Hollywood or British film companies. Pity.

Big Bear portrait
Outspoken Cree chief Big Bear, subject of a disturbing movie about the Northwest Resistance. Photo LH 2775, ca. 1880, from Local History Room,
Saskatoon Public Library

Alien Thunder (1974), about Cree fugitive Almighty Voice, starring Gordon Tootoosis and chief Dan George. During a famine, A.V. steals a government cow. Suspecting him of murder, a Mountie (Donald Sutherland) pursues him relentlessly. Written by George Malko.

Big Bear (1998), a CBC movie and television mini-series about the unbending, far-seeing Cree chief who refused to sign Treaty Six, until his band was starved into submission. Based on Rudy Wiebe’s novel, The Temptations of Big Bear, it was shot partly at Pasqua First Nation near Fort Qu’Appelle.

Big Muddy (2014), written and directed by Jefferson Moneo, shot in Saskatoon and in the Assiniboia region. Moneo was born in Saskatoon.

The Canadians (1962, 20th Century Fox), filmed in the Maple Creek region, was loosely based on the coming of the Sioux in the 1870s. Saskatoon’s Scott Peters (aka Peter Scott) was in its cast, and extras were brought from nearby reserves.

Conquest (1998, Heartland Motion Pictures) with Saskie actors Susan Williamson, Chrisse Bornstein, Jean Freeman. 

Corner Gas, the Movie (2014), based on the hit TV sitcom Corner Gas set in the fictional Dog River and filmed in Rouleau. Its stars included Janet Wright, Brent Butt and Eric Peterson. It was also made into an animated television series.  

Drylanders (1963) a drama directed by Don Haldane, screenplay by Charles Cohen. A National Film Board production, it tells a classic story of homesteaders in the early days of settlement. It starred Frances Hyland, and James Douglas. 

Grey Owl (1999), a drama about Englishman Archibald Belaney, alias Grey Owl, who pretended to be a native trapper but wasn’t. Directed by Richard Attenborough, it stars Pierce Brosnan and Annie Galipeau, with cameo appearances by Graham Greene and others. It was partly shot in Saskatchewan’s north, where Grey Owl lived with his partner Anahareo. Their cabin is still a popular tourist attraction near Waskesiu.

The Northwest Mounted Police (1940), a Cecil B. DeMille drama, stars Gary Cooper as a Texas cowboy involved in the Northwest Resistance (even though it’s set in the mountains — which are rather scarce in Saskatchewan). Author Pierre Berton had a field day with movies like this in his book Hollywood’s Canada.

Paperback Hero (1973) shot in Delisle. Saskatoon actress Jacqui Presley appeared in it, along with Hollywood actors Keir Dullea and Elizabeth Ashley. It’s about a small-town hockey player who imagines himself to be an Old West gunslinger. Not very Canadian, and not at all like the 1999 Australian film of the same name starring Hugh Jackman.

Pierre of the Plains (1942) an American western film set in Saskatchewan (though it also features mountains!), directed by George B. Seitz with stars John Carroll and Ruth Hussey.

Saskatchewan (1954): a Hollywood drama about the Saskatchewan River, starring superstars Allan Ladd and Shelley Winters. It’s a remake of O’Rourke of the Royal Mounted, and has nothing to do with our province except the title.

Who Has Seen the Wind (1977), based on a classic book by W.O. Mitchell, starred Gordon Pinsent and Jose Ferrer. Shot in Arcola, it was directed by Allan King. In its day, it was a film not to be missed.

Why Shoot the Teacher (1977) based on a popular book by Saskatchewan author Max Braithwaite. It’s about a young man from the city arriving from the east to teach in a one-room school, a tiny building seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The novel is another prairie classic, as many Saskatchewan residents still alive attended such one-room schools where up to eight grades were taught in one room. Gifted students could eavesdrop on the curricula of upper grades and then sail through them when they attained that grade. Those who don’t remember those schools can see recreated classrooms in many prairie museums, or authentic ones preserved from decades past. The Little Stone Schoolhouse on the U of S campus is an authentic example, although it was not isolated in the countryside. (See also our section on education, “The Halls of Academe).”

And finally, although A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court had little to do with us, it was the comic incantation “Saskatoon Saskatchewan” at the precise moment of an eclipse that saved the protagonists’ bacon.

Obscure Saskatchewan movies

These are movies made in, or about Saskatchewan that you might not have seen, or don’t remember.

Chained (2002), a slasher movie.

Crisis, aka Deadend, (2002) a mob story shot in Saskatoon, debuted at

Decoy (1995) filmed in Indian Head: about an heiress.

A Dog Named Christmas (2009) filmed in Regina: boy rescues dog from a shelter.

Dolan’s Cadillac (2009) a horror/crime film based on a Stephen King novel.

Gungapore (2005), a made-for-TV movie by La Ronge filmmaker Ray Ramayya.

Just Friends (2005), shot in Regina: a teenage romance.

The Lost Daughter, (1997) shot at Last Mountain Lake, thriller starring Richard Chamberlain, about a woman moving to a small town.

The Messengers (2007), a supernatural horror show shot in Regina.

The Rink (1997) by Saskatoon playwright Rod McIntyre, shot in Saskatoon.

Rescued from Death in Siberia (2014) documentary, about Poles who were moved into Siberian camps in 1939.

Skipped Parts (2000) filmed in Indian Head, Lebret, Regina and Vibank about a mother and son banished to a small town in the 1960s. It starred Drew Barrymore.

[Newspaper clippings; internet]

Strutting the boards

In Canada and beyond

Actors on stage and screen tend to migrate back and forth from theatre roles to movies and television. Here are a few of many who have performed here and/or beyond our borders.

Linda Griffiths, actress, producer and playwright performed on Saskatoon stages (including Paper Wheat) before moving to Toronto. She helped found 25th Street Theatre, and was a director of Theatre Passe Muraille. Her play Maggie and Pierre even showed off-Broadway. She appeared in several TV series and movies, and won a Gemini and four Dora Mavor Moore awards (Doras).

Arthur Hill was born in Melfort and moved to England at twenty-six to become a prominent stage presence there, and later on Broadway in New York.  He won a Tony in 1963 and a New York Drama Critics award for his performance as George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Hill also landed major roles in many bigtime movies and starred in his own TV series.

Frances Hyland in a university play.
Frances Hyland in a Greystone Theatre play at the U of S, while she was a student. Photo A 3657 from University of Saskatchewan Archives.

Frances Hyland, born in Shaunavon, used to be one of our best-known actresses. She studied drama at the U of S drama department, and in England. Her acting credits are legion. She played with such stars as John Gielgud and Christopher Plummer, and appeared on Broadway and in London, the Shaw Festival, the Stratford Festival, and the National Arts Centre.

In 2019, Regina’s Tatiana Maslany (mentioned above) was appearing on Broadway in Network, not to mention many roles in other media.

Two actors in play Picnic. At right is Eric Peterson.
Actor Eric Peterson performing in “Picnic” at the Greystone Theatre. He was a drama student, aged about eighteen. Photo from University of Saskatchewan
Archives & Special Collections.

Eric Peterson of Indian Head studied drama at the U of S and began his stage career at Tamahnous Theatre in Vancouver and later Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto. One of his best-known stage roles portrayed a famous Canadian flying ace in Billy Bishop Goes to War, but Peterson is better known for his television roles, such as Corner Gas and Street Legal.

Tom Rooney of Prince Albert has a bachelor’s degree of music in performance from USask.  He has acted at many Canadian theatres including ten seasons at Stratford, and Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, and in various film and TV shows. He won a Dora award in 2013.

Henry Woolf & wife Susan Williamson are seasoned British actors long resident in Saskatoon, where he headed the U of S drama department and Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan. They hopped across the pond now and then to appear on London stages. A lifelong friend of Harold Pinter, he has appeared in many films, including The Lion in Winter, Rocky Horror Picture show and Gorky Park, and she has appeared in plays and films including Conquest and Betrayed.

John Wright, one of the famous Wright family thespians, studied drama at the U of S where he shocked audiences as a nude in Equus. Now based in Alberta, he starred in stage roles across Canada, too many to list here, but Shakespeare was a specialty. His face also appears regularly on TV and movie screens.

Portrait of Susan Wright
Susan Wright, Saskatoon actress. one of the famous Wright family of thespians. Photo from City of Saskatoon Archives, StarPhoenix collection.

Susan Wright co-founded Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon with her sister Janet, and Brian Richmond. A notable early role was in Cruel Tears. Later she appeared on stages across Canada, including seven seasons at Stratford. She also appeared on television and film, winning two Dora awards for best actress. Tragically, she died in a fire in Stratford in 1991.

Radio and television shows, and their creators

Theatre, television and radio shows also migrate back and forth among media … some on to movie screens. Here we mention a few dramatic shows with Saskatchewan connections

Corner Gas, a popular TV sitcom, was created by Brent Butt, who was born in Tisdale and started as a stand-up comic. It has since morphed into a feature film, and an animated TV sitcom with the same bucolic setting and characters that are the spitting image of the living ones. He has won multiple awards for comedy, including the Gemini.

InSecurity, a comedy TV series involving inept spy-catchers, takes place at a fictional Canadian National Intelligence and Security Agency in Ottawa but was produced and chiefly filmed in Regina. It ran from January 2011 for two seasons but CBC cancelled it in April 2012 due to budgetary cuts,

The Jake and the Kid series by W.O. Mitchell on CBC Radio delighted listeners across Canada in the 1940s and 1950s. These iconic stories about a boy and a hired hand on a farm near the fictional prairie town of Crocus also appeared in Maclean’s Magazine before publication as a book by the same title.

Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story (2006). A CBC-TV mini-series produced by Keven DeWalt. Well-known Saskie actors appeared in it, including Sharon Bakker, Tatiana Maslany, Walter Mills, Robert Benz, and others. It won a cornucopia of awards for Mind’s-Eye Pictures including an ACTRA and a Gemini.

The ground-breaking television series Little Mosque on the Prairies, though not scripted by a Saskie, was filmed here and in Ontario. In a time of religious distrust, it depicted ordinary Muslims and their amicable capers with Christians. 

Two of Maggie Siggins’s books were made into television mini-series. A Canadian Tragedy, Love and Hate, is the story of Colin Thatcher and his role in the murder of his wife JoAnn. Revenge of the Land chronicles ambition and skulduggery associated with sections of land near Moose Jaw.

Greg Nelson, a U of S alumnus, has penned scripts for television, radio and theatre, including episodes of Orphan Black, Frontier, Afghanada, Rookie Blue and Played (both police dramas), Saving Hope and Remedy {medical dramas) and others. He won the Canadian Screenwriting Award in 2007 and 2008, international radio awards in 2008, and a U of S alumni award in 2018.

[Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan; Brenna, Our Kind of Work; and other online sources]